Domestic Industrial Exposition

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  • Dates: 1877 (Tokyo); 1881 (Tokyo); 1890 (Tokyo); 1895 (Kyoto); 1903 (Osaka)
  • Japanese: 内国勧業博覧会 (Naikoku Kangyô Hakurankai)

The Domestic Industrial Expositions, or National Industrial Expositions, were a series of expos held in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka in emulation of similar events held in Western countries. Overseen by the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce, the expos showed artworks, crafts, industrial products, and other exhibits displaying Japan's modernity.

The first three Domestic Expositions were held in Ueno Park in Tokyo, in 1877, 1881, and 1890. The fourth was held in Okazaki Park in Kyoto in 1895, and the fifth in the Tennôji neighborhood of Osaka in 1903. In addition to displays of industrial and agricultural advances, the expositions also featured a gallery of contemporary artworks, which were then judged and granted awards by a team of judges, in a system based upon that employed in the West; many of those artworks selected at the domestic expositions then went on to represent Japan at international expositions (such as the World's Fairs).

These expositions - and Japan's art world more broadly at this time - saw the adaptation of many art/craft products into forms that might be more unquestionably identified by Western observers as "fine art" (rather than as the lesser "decorative arts"). At the Third Domestic Exposition, held in Tokyo in 1890, calligraphy - which had up until then occupied the highest status within traditional Japanese arts - was controversially removed from the "fine arts" displays, in order to better adapt to Western perspectives.

The Fourth Domestic Exposition, held in Kyoto's Okazaki Park, saw some significant controversies as well. A Western-style oil painting by Kuroda Seiki, entitled "Morning Toilette," already selected for display at France's Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, featured a nude female figure. While nudes are a classical subject in Western art, shunga and other forms of sexually graphic art had already begun to become taboo in Japan, and the nude female figure, associated with prostitution (though the figure in this image was not intended to have such associations), was seen as unrefined or inappropriate; it was covered with a cloth.[1]

The 1903 Osaka Exposition was the last such Domestic Exposition to be held. It infamously included a "Pavilion of Mankind" (Jinruikan) organized by anthropologist Tsuboi Shôgorô, in which Ainu, Taiwanese aborigines, Koreans, and others were put on display. A group of Okinawans refused to go on display.


  • Matsushima Masato, "Japan's Dream of Modern Art," Remaking Tradition: Modern Art of Japan from the Tokyo National Museum. Cleveland Museum of Art (2014), 15-18.
  1. Matsushima, 20.